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THF Monthly Kukai — April 2022

Welcome to the THF Monthly Kukai.

This month’s theme:

Note: Anonymity is an essential part of any kukai. Please respect this to offer the reader (and voter) the opportunity to choose only the poem.

The THF Kukai Overview

A kukai is a (usually quite casual) poetry contest. The administrator of the kukai (that’s us) assigns a theme for a given writing period and posts to Troutswirl (The Haiku Foundation blog) on the THF site, which is then redirected outward through our various media outlets. Poets write work to this theme during the allotted time and submit it to the administrator. The work submitted is gathered into an anonymous roster and posted to Troutswirl (The Haiku Foundation blog) for public viewing. At that time all participating poets and other interested readers may vote for their favorites. Votes are tallied and the results made public. The top winners will be acknowledged each month, and offered their choice of prizes from a list compiled by the Foundation. Please remember that everyone who votes is a winner — the process of choosing your personal favorites is not just fun, but also one of the best ways to improve your own haiku practice!

Results of Last Month’s THF Kukai

theme: mud

In March there were 165 submissions from twenty-eight countries across five continents.
One hundred three voters casting ballots determined the following results.

First Prize
mud bath
trying to find
my inner beauty
     — Baisali Chatterjee Dutt (54 points - 3; 5; 3; 3; 4)
I find this delightful, and very funny. Casting a benign eye over human frailty, the poet gently satirizes our all too human impulses (not least her own) to be drawn towards miracle cures and transcendent states of mind.
Second Prize (tie)
the eye blink
of a bull frog
     — Bruce Feingold (44 points - 2; 5; 3; 1; 3)
What a vivid moment this is!  How quick is the eye-blink of a frog? You could think that you had imagined it, until it happens again. Was it that caused you to notice that the frog was there in the first place? All is silent now, but with a bullfrog you never know. For no apparent reason, he may fill the relative silence with his primordial and guttural croak. And then another.
Second Prize (tie)
war refugees
nothing to declare
but mud and fear
     — Rafał Zabratyński (44 points - 5; 3; 1; 1; 2)
I was writing not so very long ago on the subject and experience of war as presented in haiku. I could hardly have guessed how topical this would become, less than a year later. The poet has here chosen to focus on that aspect of armed conflict to which we can most easily relate: the unceasing flow of refugees, bereft of almost everything but their own lives, and –– if they are fortunate –– each other. It is impossible not to feel: “There but for the grace of God go we” –– or whatever humanist equivalent you may prefer. We could at the same time be shying away from the knowledge of the unburied and decomposing bodies that lie on the streets from which these refugees have fled. Nor need we reproach ourselves unduly for this. Here before us is a situation we can actually do something about — for people like ourselves, who happen to have just experienced the calamity of being wrenched out of their homes and lives. Lives that are every bit as precious to them as ours are to us.
Fourth Prize
little hands
in river mud
shaping the earth
     — Hildy Bachman (43 points - 1; 2; 7; 3; 3)
It is difficult to write about children in haiku and not slide sideways into sentimentality. A first line such as this one would have had me running for the woods, had I ever occupied the chair of a journal submissions editor. (It is for the best, no doubt, that I never have.) And I would have been wrong in this case. There is no emotional baggage carried here by the line “little hands”. They simply denote the small hands of a child who is in a very literal sense shaping the landscape, and may one day help to shape our planet’s future. Preceding generations do not have a lot to boast about in this regard, despite a lot of fine talk. We need her to do better than we have managed thus far.

Honorable Mentions
a lily pad
sinking in mud
my depression
     — Meera Rehm
I am not quite sure how I respond to this haiku, but respond I do. I have known depression, I know about sinking. Could I at such times see the beauty in a lily pad? Probably not; it would be like trying to look through very thick glass. But this I do know. When I catch myself enjoying a shape or a color –– or indeed a face –– purely for itself, then I recognize that I am on the road to recovery. I am no longer sinking, but rising.
alzheimer . . .
in every mud puddle
a memory
     — Mircea Moldovan
woodland walk
winter clings
to my boots
     — Nick T
mud season . . .
local gossip shared
over the fence
     — Michele L Harvey 
early spring
digging the garden
from between the dog’s pads
     — Jim Krotzman
under the bridge
where he used to play . . .
     — Deborah Karl-Brandt
This suggests to me the likelihood that a child, a son now grown, is being evoked for the writer by the sight of fresh handprints in the mud. The idea that yet another generation of children has been playing in this popular and traditional spot has great appeal. That still leaves open the possibility that this is a bereavement poem. And then it would be as much a question of consolation, as appeal. I hope that was not the case for this writer.
a whiff
of what was . . .
     — Shloka Shankar
The word “petrichor” is that linguistic rarity, a completely new word that has entered the mainstream of the English language. It was coined by a pair of Australian scientists, when some 60 years ago they were studying a phenomenon that commonly occurs (and all over the world) when rain or the approach of rain causes scents to emanate––particularly after a prolonged dry spell––from rocks, gravel, dried mud, as well as bark or foliage. We sometimes call this “the smell of rain”, though it clearly is not that in any literal sense. It is now known to be due to oils that have been absorbed during the drought and are then released by dampness. There was previously no term for this phenomenon, so the research team had to invent one*. In the context of this poem, the writer experiences just such an emanation, perhaps from some dried-up river bed.
*From the Greek words petra, meaning stone, and ichor, in Greek mythology the golden fluid that flows in the veins of the immortals.
mud . . .
nothing much left
of my father now
Some part of my brain immediately demurred over this poem, given that a skeleton is far from being nothing. But on consideration I saw that this is an over-literal quibble on my part. Our soft tissues will indeed not last for very long after we die. They will on the contrary begin to recycle quite quickly, and mud is an apt enough analogy for that inexorable progress. A teaspoon of healthy soil has been found to hold more microorganisms than the number of people on the planet. The decomposition of our own remains commonly inspires revulsion. But we could do worse than to study the opening words of Darwin’s final paragraph in “The Origin of Species”: “There is grandeur in this view of life . . .”  Or equally Carl Sagan’s somewhat pithier: “We are stardust.”

Remarks are by Dee Evetts, THF Monthly Kukai Commentator. He is an internationally known haiku poet and author of “The Conscious Eye” series on contemporary themes in Frogpond in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Writing for The Haiku Foundation Monthly Kukai

On the first day of each month The Haiku Foundation will announce the kukai theme for that month. This theme should be the topic of your poem, and may be stated (by using the theme word or words) or implied. Form may be traditional (three-line, 5-7-5) or free (various numbers of lines and/or syllables). Season words (kigo) may or may not be used at the poet’s discretion. A poet may submit one poem per theme. All poems must be the original, unpublished work of the author. In order to maintain the spirit and fairness of the kukai, a poem that has appeared anywhere with its author’s name cannot be allowed for submission.

Please use the Kukai submission form below to enter your poem, and then press Submit to send your entry. No other submissions will be recognized or honored. Once a poem is submitted it cannot be revised. All poems must be signed (that is, no “anonymous” poems will be accepted, and the Submit button will not be available until both Name, Email, and Place of Residence fields are filled in). Poets will not receive acknowledgment of their submissions. Poems will be accepted from the announcement of the theme through midnight of the 15th of that month. All poets are eligible to participate. Administrators of the kukai are ineligible to submit poems. Your submission form to us should look something like this:

line one
followed by line two
and then line three


this poem is all in one line



[all lines right-justified]

If your poem has special formatting requirements you should note them as in the third example above.

Good luck, and have fun!


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